Friday, August 7, 2020

Double Dragon (NES, 1988)

Time to check out one of the finest beat 'em ups on the NES. This game got the street fighting genre rolling on consoles. Later games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage would refine the formula, beating this series up and stealing its lunch money. For its time, though, Double Dragon was the trendsetter, the prototype. More on those other beat 'em ups at a later date, because right now we're goin' ham on the OG.

I flipped over to the NES Atlas for some help, and this game isn't in it. I could have sworn it was. You dropped the ball, Nintendo! How are people supposed to find out how to get a score of 70,000 in this game like that kid in The Wizard?

The game begins with the bad guys just full-on punching Marian in the stomach and kidnapping her. It's BRUTAL for a Nintendo game. This is the same intro as the Game Boy version, and both are basically the same story. The Game Boy version has shorter, rearranged levels. I've played that one, but not this one.

Yep, there they go, blue hair and all. I hope this isn't the story of every game in the series.

I'll be playing all of the remaining classic Double Dragons: 1, 2, 3, Super, and V. Yeah, the 5th one changes to a Roman numeral. Super is basically the unspoken fourth game, though they did make an actual Double Dragon 4 for modern systems a few years ago that wasn't well-received, as well as Double Dragon Neon which was.

Super Double Dragon is also a bit of a remake of this game, much like Super Castlevania 4. And then there's the movie...yep, they made a Double Dragon movie.

This sepia tone reminds me of the intro of Secret of Evermore. Except instead of BIJOU, we're in front of GRIGR.

You play as Billy Lee, street fighter extraordinaire and Marian's boyfriend. No relation to Billy Lee Black of Xenogears fame. 

This game operates on the same semi-3D plane as most beat 'em ups of this type. The key is to beat up enemies before they do too much damage to you. Not too complicated, lot of fun though. It gets rid of platforming (for the most part) so you can focus on the brawling aspect.

TWO Empire State Buildings? While I've seen some inaccurate cityscapes in games before, this is a new low!

Here's a conveyor belt that can easily carry you to your doom. At this point I made a startling discovery: Turbo controllers make this game SIGNIFICANTLY easier. Being able to rapid-punch or rapid kick is the way to go for stunlocking enemies. Still need to move around and weave to avoid getting hit in the back or otherwise blindsided. Mashing buttons really fast is another way to do it.

The infamous Abobo is a massive behemoth that serves as the first boss (and several other bosses) in all of these games.

In this one, you can defeat him easily by pushing him off this conveyor belt to his doom. If you fall in after him, however... might as well start the game over right there. The crucial key to winning in Double Dragon is to go as long as possible without dying. You get full health restores every time you change stages, and you only have 3 lives to get through the ENTIRE GAME because it's an NES game.

80's kids were hardcore!

So yeah, you want to get most of the way through the game without losing a life, which isn't too difficult once you get the hang of it. There are situations where enemies block you, like this, and you end up having to take damage.

Here's Chintai. I remember all of these guys from the Game Boy Player's Guide. Chintai looks like he'd be a quicker, less-tough boss than Abobo, but he actually seems to take more punishment overall.

The key is to really count on those stage-changeovers to restore health and reset the timer. The timer is another thing to contend with, and if you're not careful it can cost you lives.

So of course this game has the requisite punching and kicking, but you can also learn all kinds of special moves as you gain experience (your level is denoted by how many hearts you have, up to 7). That's pretty cool. I got all of them really quickly just from playing naturally. The special moves fire by themselves, under the right circumstances.

One particularly fun move is the flying kick...which is the only way to jump over pits. Luckily they kept pits to a minimum, because you don't have a whole lot of control over the flying kick. It also involves pressing punch+kick together, since the NES doesn't have any buttons left after punch, kick, and moving around in the semi-3D plane. Maybe they could have used Select, but honestly A+B is better than that.

My God! Two Abobos! Most crucial thing is to not get trapped between them Night At The Roxbury style.

"WHAT IS LOVE" says Abobo 1. "BABY DON'T HURT ME" replies Abobo 2.

Stage 3 (of 4) is where things get tough. This is at least as far as you want to get without losing a life. Now we get to contend with falling spikes and other environmental hazards.

Also...platforming. Very limited platforming, at least. This cave will loop around endlessly if you play through it normally, and the way to escape is to simply go through the first door you see. That's it. As you can see here I burned through my timer trying to get to the end of the level until I realized there's no way it was supposed to be this long on purpose.

Stage 4, like the Game Boy version, takes us to the mountain lair of the Shadow Warriors, the villains of this world. Also: This world is 80's as F****K.

Maybe the one major misstep of this game is this part. Blocks jab out from the wall that do a ton of damage, and there's no rhyme or reason to when it happens, so you're bound to take some damage no matter what. They put this horrendous trap right before the final boss room, too.

Now there's a logo I recognize. This game really isn't that difficult, especially compared to other trendsetting NES classics from the same timeframe. Just turbo your way to victory! Using the turbo is like the Crane Kick: If do right, no defense.

The final boss music is pretty good, and memorable to boot.

The actual final battle is a series of waves of enemies, starting with the wimpiest foes and scaling up from there...

...until you battle Willy, the menacing guy with a machine gun. Even worse...he's a smoker.

This guy can be a deadly opponent if you let him line up shots. I found that getting him in a corner and pummeling him was the way to go. The only problem is...

...if you let him scroll off the screen, he stops taking damage even as you continue to juggle him, so you're just wasting the timer at that point.

He's got twice the HP of an Abobo, and once you defeat him you may think the game is over.

NOPE. Right after defeating Willy, you have to face your own brother. Your own flesh and blood! This is Jimmy Lee, and HE TOO is Marian's boyfriend. ...I'm so confused.

What follows is an even tougher battle where your biggest threat becomes the timer. Jimmy can take twice as much damage as Willy (so 4x an Abobo) and the player is probably already low on time after everything else before this.

The fight itself isn't too bad outside of the timer. He's got all the same moves that Jimmy has, since they're twin brothers and all. However he's susceptible to all of the same things that stunlock other foes.

Protip: The back-elbow, which looks just like Chris Jericho's Judas Effect, is the most damaging move in the game against most foes. However, Jimmy dodges it about 100% of the time. So double protip, use it everywhere else, don't use it here.

Both guys are barely even able to get to their feet! THE DRAMA!

After Billy ekes out a win, he rescues Marian. It looks like they were keeping her in some posh accommodations here.

A passionate hug, and that's it for this game. Yeah, this is really posh. There's even an orange cat lurking around. What's with that ladder in the floor though? It looks like a secret entrance to the room. Considering we didn't use it to get in here, it's odd that it's there at all.

So wait, was Jimmy the secret leader of the Shadow Warriors? Or did he just swoop in at the end because he felt HE should be the one to rescue Marian? Was he planning to kill Billy and steal his identity? How did he expect any of this to work out? He would have been exposed as soon as Marian noticed that he's terrible in bed, unlike Billy.

Man, poor Jimmy. Let's hope Billy and Marian get him the help he needs before the next game.


  1. oh man double dragon! bring back memories , I did see the movie when I was a kid along with the street fighter movie (marian was a cop I think? in the dragon movie) I did beat the 3 games for nes but the sacred stones was a nightmare spamming flying kick was the way to go for me in that and double dragon 2 in master mode (with the bosses at least). about Marian and the lee brothers situation: she was originally Billy Lee girlfriend and Jimmy friend , because of that he became a bad guy feeling jealous of his brother Billy, the relationship is made more evident if you play the SEGA CD version of double dragon 2 (where they confirmed Billy and marian relationship) , they did retcon the relationship though in the GBA remake of double dragon , in that instead of being maria boyfriend jimmy and billy lee fight in order to win her favour (and she did choice neither prefering both boys like friends) and I think that stay that way until today given that in the actual double dragon 4 (not the neon one) they left the relationship ambiguous.

  2. I like that Reserved Parking Mega Man sign.

    80s kids were hardcore... or just didn't beat the game.

    Oh man, that final boss theme really is good!

    Forget Billy and Marian, I wanna know what the story is with that cat!